Recent research has offered hope for human dieters. In the study, rats were put on a diet for 30 days and were intensely exercised. The results showed that they resisted cues for normally favored pellets that were high fat. The procedure tested the level of resistance known as “incubation of craving”, which states that the longer a desired item is denied, the more difficult it can be to ignore signals for it.
While more study is necessary, the research does imply that exercise can bolster restraint when it comes to certain food types.
A very integral part of staying on a diet is brain power – being able to say “no” to something a person might be craving but wants to abstain from. Exercise may not only be physically beneficial for loss of weight, it also can mentally help to get control over cravings for foods that are not healthy.
The study included 28 rats that were put through a training. There was a lever that could be pressed to turn on a light and then made a sound before it dispensed a pellet that was high fat. Following the period of training, testing was done to observe how many times the rats would actually press the lever just to get the light and the tone cue.
The team then split the rats into 2 groups – one group was put on a regiment of high intensity running on a treadmill, the other group had no additional exercise besides their current activity. For a period of 30 days both groups were denied access to the pellets that were high fat.
After the 30 day period, the team gave the rats back access to the levers that earlier dispensed the pellets. However, this time when the rats pressed the lever, they only got the light and sound. The rats that were denied any extra exercise now pressed the levers much more than the rats that had been put through intense exercise. This shows that exercise had reduced the desire for the high fat pellets.
In studies in the future the team plans to see the effect of different levels of exercise for this type of craving. In addition, they want to see exactly what happens in the brain with exercise to curb the craving for foods that are unhealthy.
The study is novel, however it does build on work the team did that initially defined “incubation of craving”and has studied other ways to destabilize it. The team leader also credits research that shows exercise can also curb cravings for cocaine.
It is an unsettled study question as to if food can be as addictive as drugs. Not all foods see to have have an effect that is addictive. No one really binges on broccoli for example. But, people do appear to respond to cues such as fast food ads which encourage consuming foods that are high in sugar or fat. These cues might be harder to abstain from the longer they are dieting. Being able to disregard these signals may be another way exercise will improve health.
Exercise is, of course, beneficial in a number of ways. It helps with obesity, cardiac disease and diabetes. It may also help with avoidance of some of the maladaptive foods. People are always looking for a magic pill, and exercise, which is right in front of us, has all these benefits.
To view the original scientific study click below:
Acute high-intensity interval exercise attenuates incubation of craving for foods high in fat